By Tathagata Satpathy, ex-MP
THE NON-VIOLENT protest at Shaheen Bagh, it appears, will pave the way for widespread violent struggles in the country. It portends to deepen religious schism, which, in turn, will benefit the BJP. Many are dead, including a police head constable, in rioting across Northeast Delhi between pro and anti-CAA protesters. Maujpur, Jafrabad, Chandbagh and Karwal Nagar are the specific hard-hit areas. Hundreds are injured. But more worrying reports are coming through. One of the rioters was caught on camera shooting at the anti-CAA protesters and he even pointed the weapon at the police. This protester was said to be a supporter of the BJP-led offensive against the anti-CAA protests.
This was not the first time anti-CAA protests saw firearms being used in clashes between protesting groups. Two instances of protesters firing pistols were reported earlier against anti-CAA protesters. This is a very dangerous trend and the administration seems turning a blind eye to it.
The use of firearms by protesters is indicative of a breakdown of law and order. We are but a step away from a full-blown civil war. Or, will it be anarchy? To claim these events as being merely communal could be underplaying the dangerous situation. Today, it would be the Moslems sitting in protest at Shaheen Bagh, who find themselves in the crosshairs. Tomorrow it will certainly be the Dalits, Christians, Buddhists and who knows if it will not end up with anyone opposed to the current political party in power. One is reminded of the poem by Martin Niemoller that went like this:
‘First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.’
This chilling poem may have been written during the early Nazi era in Germany but it does have relevance for us all today in India. Just being a Hindoo may not be protection enough from forces that are not hesitant to resort to violence to remain in power.
At present, it is difficult to say if the government is or is not taking effective measures to control such use of violence only because those involved in such acts are on their side. Their silent nod to violence, though, will prove to be a fatal error. In the context of this struggle, there is one other mischief that has gone ‘unnoticed’ by the authorities. A video posted on social media shows a tractor load of mortar chunks, stones and bricks being unloaded beside a road. It is claimed that groups that have launched an offensive against anti-CAA protesters are getting the projectiles delivered for a war in the street. If the videos are doctored, it is dangerous for the country as we are witnessing a propaganda machine at work; if it is true, then we are witnessing state-sponsored violence.
The second scenario is equally inimical to the nation’s Constitutional ideals. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has placed the onus of protecting the Shaheen Bagh protesters and maintaining law and order, at the doorsteps of Delhi Police. He has stated that policemen on the ground were awaiting orders from their seniors and that no direction to disperse crowds by use of force was being issued to them. Lives are being lost in the name of an Act that in effect is but another paper tiger in an already lawless land. 

If the State intends to harass a citizen for any reason, existing laws provide it with more than adequate means to do so. The amendment of the Citizenship Act is but an addition whose purpose was to merely incite such divisions among the people. It might be just as or even more futile than the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A in Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into Union Territories. Imagine the mental condition of the young students of schools and colleges in the Valley whose educational institutions reopened after 200 days on Monday, 24 February. Expecting of them to imbibe a pro-India attitude may be a difficult pill to swallow. 

A published report indicates that abrogation of the Articles is still far from bringing investments into the region, given the hurdles that remain in the policies of the state. It surely was not ‘development’ that encouraged the abrogation. It would be misplaced optimism if one were to believe that the government would keep its focus on the state for long. It needs more decoys such as the CAA and NRC to keep the people guessing and fuming.

With constantly shifting targets, the public are bound to be overwhelmed and the country, hopping from one crisis to another, would finally not achieve anything. The reasons for electing this party to power, Vikas, would be buried under the heaps of (dead) bodies. Several lives have been lost in the streets in the name of matters that do not matter. Real issues pertaining to development have long been put on the backburner. Our fights today are with phantoms while the loot is happening right under our noses.


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